It’s not every day you’re invited to meet Royalty and, moreover, get the chance to speak with them about climbing. But that’s exactly what happened to BMC Cheddar Gorge Climbing Warden and activist Martin Crocker earlier this month when Their Royal Highnesses the Earl and Countess of Wessex visited Cheddar Gorge.
Martin reports on the Royal party’s whirlwind tour of the gorge.
I received a phone call from Hugh Cornwell, Director, Cheddar Gorge & Caves, and I was booked to meet The Earl and Countess of Wessex (Prince Edward and wife Sophie) in Cheddar Gorge on Monday 9 June.
Hugh and his staff had choreographed a packed programme for the Royal party. It started on the tour bus where, introduced as organiser of the Cheddar Gorge Climbing Project, I tried to convey as much about the revolution in climbing access here as I could in my two-minute slot. The Earl and Countess engaged with the subject and asked many questions, even when diverted by the dynamic duo of Gordon Jenkin and Keith Marsden in action on the rock almost within a handshake’s distance of the viewing deck of the bus. Colleague Duncan Massey, Chair of Avon & Somerset Search and Rescue, which is so instrumental to our climbing consent here, followed seamlessly. I left the Royal couple with a copy of Cheddar Gorge Climbs (hoping it would stay in one piece) which had been signed by a variety of climbing activists and BMC volunteers to reflect the collective effort that goes into sustaining climbing here.
Later, Duncan and I joined Viscount Weymouth, heir to the Longleat Estate (including Cheddar Gorge, south side), Viscountess Weymouth, and Bob Montgomery – Longleat’s new CEO. While touring Gough’s Cave (as rabbits were skinned, fires lit with wood and straw by Cheddar Man, and an effigy of Gough himself came alive to an aria from a nearby soprano) we were able to talk with them about the importance of climbing in Cheddar Gorge and the rescue service. There seemed little in the way of any gulf in viewpoints; we were very warmly received, and met by an intuitive understanding that - far from laying down barriers to a successful climbing future - would look to ways of embracing it. Of course we’ve had a few bouts of self-made access problems recently, but – as Hugh has said – this was a day for building bridges. I also got to wear a fetching new BMC polo shirt.
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Cheddar Caves & Gorge
Avon & Somerset Search & Rescue